Writing Wisdom from Children’s Books

My children know the magic of books. Since before they could talk, my husband and I have read to them nearly every night. Reading was one constant in our family’s evening routine. I found myself loving the opportunity to bond as we lost ourselves in the worlds of Narnia, Hogwarts, Whoville and the Hundred-Acre Wood.
Children’s literature goes beyond its purpose to entertain and inform; it provides youngsters with an early – and often enduring – introduction to language and the power of storytelling.  I’ve witnessed the benefits of a regular diet of literature on my own kids’ imaginations. It’s most apparent when they create their own stories on the fly when we are on long drives and want to break up the monotony of the road.

Here are a few key writing fundamentals from children’s stories that you can apply to improve your own writing, with examples of these techniques in action.

– Using imagery to set the stage and to bring characters to life

– Introducing alliteration and rhyme to make passages unforgettable (and fun)
– Varying sentence length for dramatic effect (simplicity works)

                                       Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

British author J.K. Rowling is masterful at setting scenes rich with detail that come to life on the page. This excerpt comes from the fourth novel in her Harry Potter series.

“Four fully grown, enormous, vicious-looking dragons were rearing onto their hind legs inside an enclosure fenced with thick planks of wood, roaring and snorting — torrents of fire were shooting into the dark sky from their open, fanged mouths, fifty feet above the ground on their outstretched necks.

“Mesmerized, Harry looked up, high above him, and saw the eyes of the black dragon, with vertical pupils like a cat’s, bulging with either fear or rage, he couldn’t tell which….It was making a horrible noise, a yowling, screeching scream…”

Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss

This line by an exasperated Mr. Knox gets my kids giggling non-stop. It’s a clever use of both alliteration and rhyme that moves the story along:

“I can’t blab such blibber blubber! My tongue isn’t made of rubber.”

Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White

The beautiful conclusion to this classic tale underscores how you can intersperse short sentences with longer ones for dramatic effect.

“Wilbur never forgot Charlotte.
Although he loved her children and her
grandchildren dearly, none of the new
spiders ever took her place in his heart.
She was in a class by herself.
It’s not often that someone comes along
who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”